College Softball: Raiders ready for another run at national tourney

Central lakes College Raider catchers Sarah Kossan (left), and Brianna Meyer prepare to catch the ball during practice Monday, Feb. 2, at the college. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

A strong defensive middle highlights what could be a stout Central Lakes College Raiders team.

Catcher Brianna Meyer, pitcher Kali Mammenga, shortstop Cassidy Zontelli and center fielder Haley Youngbauer return from last year’s Raiders that went 21-3 to finish first in the MCAC Northern Division and earn the right to host the Region 13B tournament where the Raiders lost to Dakota College in the championship and finished 30-13-1.

“We have had to watch other teams celebrate a region championship and national tournament berth on our field two years in a row,” said Raiders head coach Ray Austin, who begins his fourth season with the Raiders. “That is a tremendous amount of fuel to add to the fire.”

Youngbauer tallied 55 hits, 25 stolen bases and 44 runs scored with a batting average of .401. Meyer totaled 61 hits and 43 RBIs, while batting .500.

Zontelli finished with 48 hits, 22 RBIs, 10 stolen bases and a .400 batting average. Mammenga had a team-low ERA of 3.33. She finished 11-5 in 101 innings pitched with 62 strikeouts. At the plate, she batted .359 with 37 hits, three homers and 23 walks.


“In softball, the people in the know say you are only as good as your middle is,” Austin said. “If that is true we have a good start with our four returning players. All four of these players were full-time starters and contributed a lot last year. Kali and Haley are also basketball players so they have had the challenge of trying to practice two sports. Brianna and Cassidy have taken leadership roles this year. All four of them create a pretty solid core for the freshmen to learn from and build around.”

With only four spots taken, Austin brings in 11 freshmen local softball fans will know well.

“With only four returners, there are lots of opportunities for our incoming players to earn playing time,” Austin said. “We have added five pitchers this year making this the deepest pitching staff we have had since I have been with the program.”

Brainerd High School graduates Jordyn Sullivan and Abby Pelowski will be teamed with Jenna Gratz of Oregon, Wis., Sarah Kossan of Motley and Ella Kilchesky of Pillager.

“They all throw different pitches and have enough differences to really play well off of each other,” Austin said. “We have lots of options and we have the ability to keep everyone fresh this year. Forty-one games in about eight weeks is a grind. We have added some really good softball players all around the field defensively. Once we get some games under our belts some things will clear up.”

The Raiders will play 18 games before their home opener against Hibbing Wednesday, April 8.

That starts Saturday, March 7, with a five-day, eight-game schedule in Clermont, Fla.. CLC will play five games on April 28 and 29 at the Rosemount Irish Dome and then participate in a crossover tournament with MCAC Southern Division competition April 3-4 at the RCTC Dome in Rochester.

“It will be our first time seeing a ball actually flying through the air or bouncing in the dirt since fall practices,” Austin said of the upcoming Florida trip. “We have added some players since then as well. Winning games is always a priority, but second, to that, this is the first chance we have to see what kind of team we actually are. We are pretty deep in the circle this year so our pitchers will be able to throw enough innings without overdoing it and, of course, come back as healthy as we are when we leave.”


The ultimate goal for this year’s Raiders is to be the ones doing the celebrating after clinching a national tournament berth.

“The national tournament is always a goal for us,” Austin said. “We know we are a pretty good team but our mindset this year is ‘one at a time’ -- one pitch, one at-bat, one out, one inning and one game. We can’t look too far forward so we are going to focus on what we can control.”

Raider roster

Sophomore: Brianna Meyer (Pierz), Haley Youngbauer (Verndale), Kali Mammenga (Little Falls), Cassidy Zontelli (Brainerd)

Freshmen: Abby Pelowski (Brainerd), Racheal Horsch (Isle), Lexy Swanson, Paige Soltis, Jenna Gratz (Oregon, Wis.), Jordyn Sullivan (Brainerd), Sarah Kossan, Savannah Sprau (Pillager), Katie Johnson (Verndale), Malaysia Gilster (New York Mills), Ella Kilchesky (Pillager)


Raider schedule

March 7: vs Delta College at Clermont, Fla. 8:15 a.m.

March 7: vs. Muskegon at Clermont, Fla. 12:30 p.m.

March 8: vs. Mercyhurst North East at Clermont, Fla. 4:15 p.m.

March 8 vs. Jackson College at Clermont, Fla. 6:15 p.m.

March 10: vs. Illinois Valley at Clermont, Fla 11:15 a.m.

March 10: vs. Rock Valley College at Clermont, Fla 1:30 p.m.


March 11: vs. Mott Community College at Clermont, Fla 9 a.m.

March 11: vs. Alpena Community College at Clermont, Fla 11:30 a.m.

March 28: vs. Rainy River at Rosemount 12:15 p.m.

March 28: vs. Minnesota West at Rosemount 2 p.m.

March 29: vs. Northland at Rosemount 7:15 a.m.

March 29: vs. Hibbing at Rosemount 9 a.m.

March 29: vs. Rochester at Rosemount 10:45 a.m.

April 3: vs. Riverland at Rochester 4 p.m.


April 3: vs. North Dakota State College of Science at Rochester 6 p.m.

April 4: vs. Gogebic at Rochester 8 a.m.

April 4: vs. Ridgewater at Rochester noon

April 8: hosts Hibbing (2) 3 p.m.

April 11: at Rainy River (2) 1 p.m.

April 15: at Northland (2) 3 p.m.

April 18: at Itasca (2) 1 p.m.

April 19: at Vermilion (2) 1 p.m.


April 22: hosts Mesabi Range (2) 3 p.m.

April 25: hosts Vermilion (1) 1 p.m.

April 26: at Hibbing (2) 1 p.m.

April 29: hosts Rainy River (2) 3 p.m.

May 2: hosts Itasca (2) 1 p.m.

May 3: at Mesabi Range (2) 1 p.m.

May 9: hosts Northland (2) 1 p.m.

Raiders softball

Head coach: Ray Austin, 4th season

Career record: 78-40

2019 record: Northern Division 21-3, Overall 30-13-1

Returning players: Brianna Meyer (C), Cassidy Zontelli (SS), Hale Youngbauer (CF), Kali Mammenga (P).

Assistant coach: Ashly Erickson, Lindsey Jourdan, Carlie Sweet

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